The Durness Duress 300km audax has been on the top of my “really looking forward to this more than any other event” list since I became aware of it. My entry was sent many months ago in the darkness of winter, safe in the knowledge that darkness in the far north of Scotland would not be too much of a problem in the middle of June, and I had dreams of warm weather, good company, and stunning scenery. The journey to Portmahomack, where the event was due to start, involved a 170 mile drive and the opportunity to pop into Newtonmore to the Newtonmore Grill, home of large plates of good food. And so at 8pm on Friday I found myself in Newtonmore, rather hungry for lack of having had anything to eat for a number of hours – a deliberate tactic on my part. On entering the Grill, something was unfamiliar. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it as to the untrained eye most things would have appeared normal, but on visiting the toilets it dawned on me some form of refurbishment had taken place since my last visit – a sparkling new toilet suite had been installed. No more wiping one’s wet hands on clothing to dry them after washing them in cold water. Seriously, the Grill has not changed for decades, and some degree of effort had been put into this. Having taken my time to soak in the ambience of the new toilet facilities I emerged to the dining area and again something appeared different. Taking a seat, and having ordered a 9” Meat Feast pizza, it dawned on me what it was – not only had the toilets been considerably improved, there had also been curtains placed on the windows! Stunning. The pizza was very enjoyable, and I set off towards Portmahomack with a full belly. On arrival, I was greeted by a few familiar faces and, after a few chats over coffee, I made for bed. Or should I say I made my bed. What this involved was an air mattress and a sleeping bad. I had never used the air bed before and it took me a few aborted efforts before I worked it out. Actually, worked it out would imply some thought went into it. What happened was I got lucky and it inflated. So off to “bed”… Rising just after at 4am (not deliberately I hasten to add but that was as long as I could endure of falling off the over-inflated air bed and having alternatively cold feet or upper body, depending on whether I had the sleeping bag pulled up and unzipped at the bottom to allow my legs to hang over the edge of the mattress or having it zipped to ensure my feet did not fall out – take mental note: being over 6 foot tall results in a not too comfortable night), I prepared for the 6am departure by having a quick wash and eating some breakfast of cereal, orange juice, toast and coffee. All provided for the princely sum of a quid by the organiser. Just before setting off I entered the kitchen to find George “Mr McNasty” Berwick in the process of making final adjustments to his headwear for the day. It would appear George was anticipating rain, for he was attempting to squeeze an empty bread bag on his head. Satisfied this would do the trick he removed it to reveal he had failed to ensure the bag was empty prior to his fitting session and his (how to put this politely) rather unkempt hair was full of crumbs. I am unsure whether he still thought it was going to rain or was fearful of the hovering seagulls, but George emerged ready for the off looking quite the dapper audaxeer: A group of around 30 set off and I took time to chat to a few people I had not caught up with the previous evening. Whilst chatting to one of my clubmates I heard a strange noise and made comment to him that it sounded like my rear wheel…seconds later I was stopped with a deflation. On examining the tyre I could find nothing embedded in it so affected a repair and discovered the problem; a 2 inch section of the beading had removed itself from the rest of the tyre. Bugger and bums. 10.9km into the audax and I had to pack; it could have been worse as it could have happened 150km into the audax. So I trundled back to base, had a coffee, packed everything back into my car and returned home - via the Newtonmore Grill for a “Truckers Breakfast” and another visit to the new hand drier.